Saturday, November 5, 2011
I Love You This Much
Day 5: Write letters to your family telling them how much they mean to you
What’s on your mind?
Apparently people with the juiciest gossip don’t hang out in bookstores on a Saturday night.
You should know that my family is very private. My husband and four children are not much for airing any sort of laundry, dirty or not, in public. They are guarded with their stories, selective with what they share. I am not. They tend to keep their feelings close to their chests. I don’t. They are self-conscious on being exposed, sheepish on being discovered. I could give a flip if anyone sees my innards. Go ahead. Take a look. And let ME be the one to show you. My family is not like me. My family is private, very private. I try to respect that, not an easy task for a writer.
Not an easy task because there is a rich source of material behind these doors. There is humor and sorrow and anger and love. And that’s as specific as I can get. In meeting my challenge of the day, I am not here to tell you their story, but to tell you mine. I am here to tell you how these five people have so strongly impacted my life. In turn, I am here to tell them how much they mean to me, how much I love them, and how much I am only who I am because of them.
But I must do this in a very careful, very generic, very nondescript sort of way, so be patient.
I’ll begin with my children, and I’ll begin at the beginning.
During my pregnancy, I was certain I would be a working mom. I was driven, determined, full of focus and purpose and, well, full of myself. I wanted nothing to do with diapers and dishrags and the whole at-home mom scene. Then you were born.
You were work.
But you were so…..you were so you. And I loved it. I loved you. I could not imagine leaving you to anyone. I could not imagine leaving you. I was so absolutely, so totally in love. I could just not fathom dropping you off for hours at a time. I didn’t want to miss even a minute. I didn’t want someone else to have all the joy and all the fun.
My pregnancy plans soon changed. I became what I was determined never to become. I became an at-home mom.
As you were growing up, you were such a little character. You reminded me of my own curiosity, determination, my love of learning, love of reading, love of talking and never-ending energy, drive, and sense of purpose. You reminded me to take time to lie on the floor and color. You reminded me to ask why. You reminded me to look and wonder and question and never take no for an answer. You reminded me of my own love of language. You reminded me of me.
You taught me that I could make mistakes and that I could not know the answers, that I could fumble and fuss and figure it out as I go. You taught me that I could think myself a total failure and that it would be okay, that I would be okay, that it was all about living and loving and learning as you go.
You’ve grown into a kind and compassionate human being with one wicked sense of humor. I think that is a truly terrific combination. You make me smile. You make me laugh. You make me proud. I love you so much.
You are such an absolute joy. I know that sounds like such a stereotypical mother thing to say, but you know that I don’t just throw out stereotypical mother things unless I mean them. You were such a delight right from the beginning. I still remember that you slept five hours straight the very first night you were on this earth. Content, peaceful, amazingly at ease straight from the start.
I could take you anywhere. You would watch in wonder, observe, sit on my lap and take in your surroundings. I have learned so much from your way of looking at the world. You taught me to be quiet, to be still, to look and to listen and to wonder at what I see. You taught me that some of the best things in life are discovered, not by jumping in and causing a ruckus, but simply by watching.
You have always been so kind and so gentle and so considerate to others. You were great with your brothers and sister and all the million neighbor kids who lived at our house for most of the day. You created carnivals and games and contests for them, complete with prizes and medals. You kept them entertained and corralled at a time when my own resources were near depleted, when I was exhausted and tired and wishing for naptime. You were my helper. You were my shadow.
You are so fun to watch as you grow. You are amazingly beautiful both inside and out. You have a warm and compassionate soul, one that yearns to reach out to others around the world. You are beginning to do this through your art. I love to watch that. Children are drawn to you, sensing your gentle and kind nature. They gather around you to learn and to smile and to feel special in the way that only you can make them feel.
I love you so much. Thank you for being the very special you you are.
Oh my goodness. From the day you were born you were such a lover of life. You always had a smile plastered on that face. Life was good. Life was fun. And if it wasn’t, well, then you just moved right on to something that was.
At a time when I was worn out from diapers and dinners and deadlines and due dates, you made me smile. You made me happy. You made me laugh and reminded me to lighten up and enjoy my days. You were a delight.
You had energy like no other. You got me up off my feet to throw the ball, shoot some hoops and chase you around the yard. I remembered what it was like to be silly in the pool, joke around at the park, to run, to climb, and go to bed every night completely and utterly exhausted. You were a tanned little towhead, an absolute cutie with smile to spare.
As you grew I watched you develop that dry sarcastic wit I am so fond of. I watched as you began to hold emotions a bit closer to your chest. I learned a lot from you about those not like me. I learned that just because another does not express emotion does not mean that that emotion is not there. I learned that some of the most sensitive sorts are the last to show what they are thinking. I learned self-control and the importance of harmony and an inner calm.
You are such an inspiration to me, such an example in self-restraint and strength. I love you so much.
If ever there were two souls so completely opposite, it would be you and me. I am so afraid of getting in trouble. I am so afraid of what others think. I am so afraid of doing the right thing. You are free like that. You are comfortable with who you are. You are self-assured and confident and don’t feel the need to answer to anyone.
You challenged my parenting skills to no end. But you made me laugh and lighten up and enjoy my days in a way I never had before. You freed me. You freed me from those eyes of that invisible audience. I learned to kick back a bit, to try risky things, to do other things just because I wanted and not because I had to. You taught me to not be afraid.
I lost you a few times. That was scary. I still remember the intensely painful feeling of thinking I would never see a child of mine ever again, the feeling that others would have that child and do mean, evil things to that child and that I would be helpless to protect and to defend. You taught me that my children are not my own, but that they are on loan, that, in the end, they belong to the Lord and that I have no say in when they are returned to Him. I would rather not have learned that lesson, but thank you for bringing it to me. Without it I would not have the appreciation I think I have now for the time I enjoy with you and your brothers and sister.
Watching you grow is an amazing thing. You are not afraid. You are not afraid to explore, to learn, to try, to do. You are not afraid to be who you are. You are not intimidated, not ruffled or dispirited. You can never be strong-armed into fitting into the system. You fit into you. I like that. I like it a lot.
I love you so much and am so very proud of who you are becoming.
I was nineteen. I had no intent of finding a man and settling down. I had things to do--school and work and life--things that had nothing to do with setting up a permanent relationship, with playing house. I needed to move forward, to establish a new way of being for myself, to find out who I was and what I was about apart from my family, apart from the way that I grew up. There was no room in that plan for anyone else. Yes, I was interested in guys, but for fun, for friendship, for passing the time, not for marriage.
Darn that party. I wasn’t even going to go, but I had promised a friend. You were there. You were nice. You were smart. You were funny. You called me back. I was hooked.
My entire life plans changed, and I have never been sorry.
You are my balance. You save me from myself. You have taught me to chill, to laugh, to lighten up. You have taught me that if children do not brush their teeth one night the world does not end, and in the end Mom is much more relaxed. You have taught me that grown-ups can be silly and that rules are not always right or necessary. You have been my strength in times of loss and my light in times of joy. You are a wonderful father. I love that about you. You are a great provider. I love that, too. You never questioned my desire to stay home with the kids. You totally supported that and, again, I loved you for it. You tolerate my quirkiness, my flightiness, my incessant change of mind and chatter. Such stamina! You let me be me.
We have built a wonderful life together. We have had some wonderful times. If I had the choice, I would absolutely do it all again. As much as I am not looking forward to growing old, at least I will be growing old with you. I’m glad you were so persistent at that party. I’m glad that I was there. It’s been great fun these past twenty-nine years. I’m glad that you interrupted my plans. I’m glad, and I love you so much.